Best Shooters May Win Game 7
The Boston Celtics were able to steal Game 2 of the NBA Finals from the LA Lakers at Staples Center for one reason — Ray Allen had an incredible shooting night. They could certainly use another if they want to win Game 7 and bring home their 18th NBA title. With news surfacing that Kendrick Perkins likely will not play in Game 7 with a sprained knee, the Celtics have to come to the realization that they are losing their best low-post defender. On the defensive end, they’ll have to make adjustments. However, with Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom also nursing themselves back to full health, there’s no need for the Celtics to hit the panic button.
Before the Finals began, Boston had to have prepared for a situation in which they’d be without their starting center. Perkins’ six technical fouls were a huge story to watch heading into the series. No one can predict an injury, but fortunately for Doc Rivers he was forced to prepare his team to lose a player that they indeed have likely lost, albeit for a different reason.
With three combined players from the two teams ailing — all of which happen to be around 7-feet tall — Game 7 of the NBA Finals could turn into a situation in which the best jump shooters win. Without Perkins, the Celtics will have a lot of shooters on the floor for the better part of the game. Rasheed Wallace, while not nearly as good as Perkins on defense, is a much more capable offensive player. His range extends to the three-point line and he adds an element on offense that the Celtics lack when Perkins is on the floor — an effective turn around jump shot. Kevin Garnett can provide a baseline turn-around jumper at times, but he’s a much better catch-and-shoot player.
Glen Davis will also need to rediscover his outside jump shot if he wants to help the Celtics win the series. If Davis and Wallace can force the Lakers to respect their range early in the game, it will open up a significant amount of space in the paint for the Celtics to attack the rim. If that space is rarely filled with the likes of Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, Boston needs to take full advantage.
As for the Lakers, they’re probably going to get the same type of production from Kobe Bryant that they’ve gotten all series — between 25 and 35 points that come from everywhere on the floor. Like the Celtics, they’ll need other people to step in and hit big shots the way Ron Artest was able to do in Game 6, especially if their big men are unable to log a lot of minutes. While Pau Gasol‘s mid-range jumper is probably the most impressive part of his game, he’ll need to take advantage of Perkins’ absence by challenging Kevin Garnett to stay in front of him and forcing Rasheed Wallace (who loves to hack) and Glen Davis (who is undersized) to rotate over and help.
All that being said, this could turn out to be one of the most exciting games in the history of the NBA Finals. That sounds obvious and you’re probably thinking to yourselves, “It’s Game 7 and this is the greatest NBA rivalry of all-time, duh,” but the lack of healthy big men could make the game that much more exciting. Don’t get me wrong, I love an old-fashioned slugfest that’s won or lost in the paint, but sometimes the most exciting games can be those where teams are trading jump shots on every possession. Remember the battle between Paul Pierce and LeBron James in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semis? We could be in for a very similar game with even higher stakes.